James McNicholas: The Boxer 4**** - One4Review
one4review | On 17, Aug 2019
James McNicholas’ debut solo hour is a loving tribute to his Grandfather,1961 Middleweight champion of the world Terry Downes, known as ‘The Paddington Express’. He weaves deftly in between playing the character of his grandfather on the rise to the top and direct stand up about his own trials; that of life as a jobbing actor and struggling to overcome his sea legs.
He researched boxing films in preparation for the show, coming to the unsurprising conclusion that they are all identikit. He gives us a brief run down of the structure, which he uses to frame the show. It feels a bit surplus to requirement in an hour that would otherwise flow seamlessly.
The writing of his grandfather’s character is truly poetic and delivered in the vein of Luke Wright. There is lots of gorgeous comic wordplay, ‘fortnightly, I fought nightly until I fought nightly’, which is extremely satisfying. He highlights the divergence of both their achievements very frankly in the form of a graph as well as subtly throughout the show.
You don’t need to know anything about or have the faintest interest in boxing to enjoy this show. It’s as much about how we perceive our own accomplishments and those of others. A timely examination of the value we place on success in our careers, overlooking everything else. This isn’t the funniest hour but its possibly the most beautiful and uplifting, which may be harder to come by at the fringe. It’s conclusion, delivered by his grandmother in a recording of a phone conversation, is a real tearjerker.
Reviewed by Sarah
Pleasance Courtyard-Bunker two